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Talking Business: 'White lies can ruin your integrity – and worse'

Nicola Wensley is director of fashion, executive appointments at recruitment firm Page Executive.

Nicola Wensley

Nicola Wensley

After eight years of recruiting senior fashion executives, this month I experienced something I never have before.

A candidate had ‘embellished’ his CV a long time ago, and it finally caught up with him 20 years later. The lie was minor and, ironically, was not a skill necessary for the role in question. But his integrity, and therefore his ability to perform, was called into question. Needless to say, he didn’t get the job.

This prompted a discussion with my colleagues around the legitimacy of the content of CVs and where the line is between a white lie and fraud. Staggeringly, verification service Higher Education Degree Datacheck says a third of people embellish or exaggerate their academic qualifications when applying for jobs.

A fundamental part of my job is to ensure a candidate is as high calibre in person as they appear to be on paper. Common white lies range from inflated profit and/or sales figures as part of their turnaround leadership, to exam grades (or even subjects studied) and reasons for leaving roles.

Candidates sometimes even lie about their interests outside of work. I have examples of candidates messing up interviews by squirming when asked to describe their last museum visit, or when asked to answer in Spanish because they claimed to be fluent.

If you’re lying about your degree or pretending you’re qualified to do something you’re not, remember, CV fraud is a crime. The number
of people being prosecuted for CV and qualification fraud is on the rise, [fraud prevention service] Cifas reports. Some people have been jailed for falsifying their education history.

Often, at an executive level in fashion, your reputation will precede you, and therefore your CV and listed skills become superfluous. However, in a leadership position integrity is paramount. I would encourage anyone with any embellishment or white lie on their CV to erase them.

Don’t risk your entire career just to give the impression you play the cello.

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